The Star Maker
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
In a city where show biz is the biz, there is no shortage of talent Managers. However, in the world of daytime soaps, Michael Bruno is the go-to guy for A-list performers. In this exelusive interview, the owner of the Los Angeles-based Michael Bruno Group dishes on the industry, his clients and his newfound celebrity as a judge on SOAPnets I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR.
As a manager to the stars, Bruno is in a unique position to shape the future of daytime television; It's an opportunity that he doesn't take lightly. Having worked as an actor, an agent and a script writer before moving on to his current career, Bruno understands and appreciates the needs of both his clients and the entertainment industry, "A lot of my star clients just have me because of my enormous relationships with daytime - not only with the casting directors," he says, "but the writers, executive producers, the network heads... And so why have an agent?"
Going On Instinct
A recent casting coup for Bruno was plugging soap vet Lesli Kay, who wasn't being used to her potential as Lois on GENERAL HOSPITAL, into his other client Colleen Dion's vacated role on THE BOLD &THE BEAUTIFUL. "Lesli came into my office and I said, 'You're Felicia!' She was worried about being pregnant, but before you know it, she got [the job], and the great thing was that it was only a three-month contract," Bruno recalls. Although the plan was to kill the character off, Kay's strong performance couldn't be denied. "This is a girl who went in and fought every single day and she was great!" Bruno says, grinning. "[Executive producer] Brad Bell came in at the last hour and said, 'Its too good,'and signed her."
B&B's newest contract player, Dax Griffin (ex-justin, ALL MY CHILDREN; Tim, SUNSET BEACH), also got his chance to be a part of the soap due to some fancy footwork. Having initially brought the actor in as a day player - the homeless man who frightened Phoebe - Bruno and casting director Christy Dooley's joint scheme was to get him a long-term job! "Brad liked him and was smart enough to know that this is a guy he needs on the show," Bruno reveals of his client whose now-clean-shaven character, Shane, will be spicing up the canvas. "Dax [plays] the epitome of the sexy bad boy with a heart underneath there somewhere."
Ofourse, sometimes - as was the case with AMC's Amelia Heinle (ex-Mia) - Bruno's gut tells him where his clients belong next. "Amelia was extensively a glorified day player on AMC... they didn't know what to do -with her. And when she came to me, THE YOUNG &THE RESTLESS was already screen-testing for Victoia. I said, 'I'm going to get you Y&R' She tested with eight other girls, but I knew what they were looking for - a broken, romantict sexual heroine - and Amelia plays that so she got it. Now she's a bonafide soap star!"
Here Comes The Judge
Bruno is also looking for daytime's next success story while playing a role of his own: the I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR judge with the Simon Cowell-like approach! Having guided the careers of soap celebs like Kin Shriner (ex-Keith, AS THE WORLD TURNS; ex-Scott, GH), Mary Beth Evans (ex-Sierra, ATWT; now Kayla, DAYS OF OUR LIVES), and Bobbie Eakes (ex-Macy, B&B; now Krystal, AMC), Bruno's certain that future winners can follow suit. "I'm not mean for mean's sake," he insists. "I came into it thinking that we've got to find someone even better than [the previous winners] because there's more money in the show [each season]."
At the end of the day, what everything boils down to for Bruno is his passion for daytime. "I really love and care about it," he confides. "It's one of those things where even if I wasn't making money, I'd still be in it."
Kelli M. Larson with reporting by Michelle Ann Moro